THE government, especially the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other concerned offices, will have to work overtime and intensify their anti-poverty programs to address the increasing number of Filipinos who have been experiencing involuntary hunger despite the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program and other multibillion-peso initiatives.
The most recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that an estimated 4.8 million families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the last three months.
The 4.8 million families that went hungry in the third quarter of the year is specially significant since it was up by around 1.2 million from the previous quarter.
This prompted Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman to revisit their programs as she stressed that the agency will work closely with concerned agencies and organizations to combat poverty and hunger.
The third-quarter numbers are the worst since the highest quarterly national rate of 22.7 percent in June 2013, and 5.7 points above the 16.3 percent (about 3.6 million families) in the second quarter.
Also, this was 2.5 points more than the 19.5 percent annual average in 2013.
The figure also coincided with the increase in number of people who perceived themselves as poor, food-poor and non-food-poor, combined with steady hunger among the non-poor.
“At any one point in time, hunger among the self-rated food-poor is always greater than hunger among the self-rated poor,” the SWS said.
It used face-to-face interviews with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for national percentages.
Respondents were asked about “moderate hunger” or the experience of hunger “only once” or “a few times” in the last three months, and “severe hunger” or the experience of hunger “often” or “always” for the same period.
The few respondents who did not state frequency of hunger were classified under “moderate hunger.”
The SWS said both moderate and severe hunger have been on the rise in the country.
Some 17.6 percent (3.8 million families) claimed experiencing moderate hunger in the third quarter, the highest since the 18 percent in August 2012.
The third-quarter moderate hunger numbers are 4.1 points up from the second quarter’s 13.5 percent (3.0 million families).
Severe hunger worsened, from the second quarter’s 2.8 percent (609,000 families) to the third quarter’s 4.4 percent (970,000 families). The severe-hunger numbers are the worst since the 5.4 percent in June 2013.
Overall, hunger increased in all areas except Mindanao, where it fell to 20.3 percent in the third quarter, from 21.3 percent in second quarter of 2014.
Metro Manila registered a 22-percent hunger rate in the third quarter, the worst so far this year. Nevertheless, this was better than the 23.5 percent 2013 average.
In Balance Luzon, the hunger rate was 24.3 percent in the third quarter, better than the 26 percent in the second quarter of 2014. Still, the third-quarter numbers are worse than the 18.3 percent 2013 average.
For the Visayas, the hunger rate was 18.7 percent, better than the high of 21 percent in the second quarter of 2013, but worse than the 16.1 percent average last year.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said “addressing hunger is a vital component of the government’s poverty reduction and social protection programs.”
“Livelihood and job creation are being intensified to help the poorest Filipino families have the capacity to meet their basic needs,” Coloma added.